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Coding app wins wool's 2018 tech challenge

Grassroots coding in the wool industry is the winning idea for Australian Wool Innovation’s 2018 Tech eChallenge.

Fending off a number of innovative business ideas that addressed areas of the wool industry such as race-line double handling and on-farm disease testing, Grassroots Coding identifies an opportunity for connecting children to the wool industry through coding.

Bringing young minds to everyday issues faced by woolgrowers, the Tech eChallenge collaboration involves Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) and the Entrepreneurship Commercialisation and Innovation Centre (ECIC) at the University of Adelaide and Deakin University. Teams comprising students, staff and the wider community undertook an intensive workshop course over the past three months to give them the skills to develop practical, low-cost digital tools to help wool producers improve animal health, welfare and productivity. Participants came up with ideas and developed products they then pitched to a panel of expert judges in the Grand Final held at the University of Adelaide.

Taking home the $10,000 first prize was the winning team from the University of Adelaide; Grassroots Coding is a collaboration between Trent Bowden and Daniel Ng. Their app aims to encourage literacy in coding amongst young people who have in interest in the wool industry and technology.

Trent and Daniel said:

“The Tech eChallenge has given us the motivation and contacts to push our product into development. We were taught concepts to help foster innovation in a fun and open environment, with opportunities to discuss ideas with industry professionals one-on-one and to also openly brainstorm with the class, both helping to refine and cultivate our final product.

“Our product makes the process of learning to code and program fun! It also sheds light on issues relevant to the wool and Australian farming industry. We’re working to show how innovative and important AWI/Woolmark and the wool industry are to the technology industry while teaching the next generation a set of invaluable skills. We can’t wait to work with the industry to continue to refine our product.”

The results:

First prize $10K: Grassroots Coding; Coding program to connect children, technology and the wool industry 
Second Prize $3k: BioShepherd; app-based tool to instantly identify health of sheep
Third Prize $2k: Wool Proof; blockchain system for the wool supply chain

The prize money will be invested into the conceptual ideas of winning teams to develop the initiative further in the aim of commercialisation.

AWI’s Program Manager for Farm Automation and Reproduction Carolina Diaz said, “this year’s challenge saw a huge diversity in the concepts brought forward to the panel. The Tech eChallenge taps into a group of people from a wide range of backgrounds that would not necessarily see the business potential for technology in the wool industry. After the success of last year, this potential is becoming evident as a viable area for the engagement of technology.”

Last year’s Tech eChallenge winners have gone on to create a commercial business helping farmers connect to the internet where poor or no coverage exists. Agrinet creates remote wireless networks and shows how the eChallenge not only gives young minds an opportunity but has also created opportunities for woolgrowers.

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